Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Monday, October 24, 2016

Champions of righteous eating have been saying terrible things of late about Coke. They’re now focusing their wrath on a corporate campaign to place Coca-Cola in the context of a healthy diet.

A New York Times editorial accuses Coke and other beverage makers of forming “innocent-sounding front groups to spread the message that sugary sodas have no deleterious effect on health.” Actually, their paid consultants have said no such thing.

They did say that dieters working on portion control might favor the 7.5-ounce mini-Coke over the traditional 12-ounce size. Also, they said those seeking to lose weight should consider exercising more.

But yes, Coke is guilty — guilty — of saying nice things about its products. “In a particularly brazen move,” the Times fulminates, a dietitian suggested that “a mini-can of Coke would make a good snack food.”

“Refreshing beverage option” was the dietitian’s exact quote.

The standard bearers of chaste eating habits have themselves lost control in apportioning blame for the “obesity epidemic” on sugared drinks. Why is soda taking so much of the rap?

There’s a habitual suspicion of the profit motive as it applies to other people’s businesses. In a similar vein, many harbor an intense disapproval of others’ unhealthy food choices.

Hence the drumbeat demand for a tax on soda. That would be a neat way to extract more money from low-income people, not unlike the stiff sin tax on beer.

But if we’re going in this direction, why not tax the extra-fat “European style” butter you find at Whole Foods? A 1-ounce pat has more calories than a mini-Coke. How about a fat tax on French Brie — and triple the tax for triple-crème?

This is not to dismiss the genuine concern about the huge amount of sugar many Americans ingest. But the remedy should be education. Help citizens understand their sugar intake and, if need be, reduce it. Do note that American consumption of full-calorie soda has plunged 25 percent since the late 1990s, and obesity rates are starting to come down.

The enduring soft drink hysteria comes from places like the recent documentary Fed Up. Produced by Katie Couric and Laurie David, the movie strongly argues that dieting and exercise can’t really help obese kids as long as sugar exerts its evil power.

One of its star “experts” is Dr. Mark Hyman, who asserts: “Your brain lights up with sugar just like it does with heroin or cocaine. In fact, sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine.”

Hyman is known for spreading the crank theory that vaccines cause autism. And his work has earned a place on Quackwatch’s list of crackpot books.

Anyhow, scientists at the University of Edinburgh decided to investigate the claim that sugar is addictive like a drug and found little evidence for it. “People try to find rational explanations for being overweight, and it is easy to blame food,” researcher John Menzies told BBC News.

In sum, those who believe themselves addicted to sugar need a shrink more than they do a nutritionist.

One last point. Coca-Cola had been on grocery shelves for about a century before there was any “obesity epidemic.” You have to ask, How did we all survive that long?

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected] To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at

Photo: Meena Kadri

  • Theodora30

    There is a strong body of evidence that too many easily digested carbohydrates – not just sugar – is a serious health threat and that fat, even saturated fat, is not the dietary villain it was once thought to be. In fact the government is revising it’s guidelines which limit fat intake. Saturated fat raises LDL cholesterol but mostly large particle LDL not the dangerous small particle LDL and it also raises HDL. Too many carbscause a rush of sugar into the blood, a corresponding rush of too much insulin to lower blood sugar, usually followed by a slump in blood sugar and hunger, fatigue, etc. Excess insulin production causes fat to be deposited (especially in the belly) raises cholesterol and blood pressure and overtime will cause insulin resistance and Type II diabetes and eventually destroy the body’s ability to produce insulin at all (Type I diabetes) which are at epidemic levels in our crb consuming culture.

    The calorie in-calorie out model is faulty. Without a lot of insulin circulating in your blood those calories cannot be used by your body.

    • Anne

      This hoopla about sugar is too comical. Actually, I put sugar into what little coffee I drink to tame down the acid. On the other hand, I don’t even put sugar into my tea. So much for this imaginary sugar addiction. And what’s wrong with a fizzy soda that tastes good? Kids ate and drank sugary stuff when I was little and most of them weren’t obese. How about getting that fat arse off the sofa occasionally and play outside like kids used to play? I bet that would take the pounds off in a hurry. Kids get fat because they spend too much time at the sacred computer.

  • The lucky one

    The government is looking for any group that is ostracized that they can tax without public resistance. But “Why is soda taking so much of the rap?”, because it is one of the unhealthiest “foods” known to man.

    • Allan Richardson

      Yet soda is only a small part of even the most unhealthy diets, with the possible exception of anorexic people keeping their “energy” level up with highly caffeinated drinks in order to stay awake and work harder (“legal cocaine” so to speak; think of the lovely but hyperactive character, forensic scientist Abby Sciutto in the series NCIS, spending nearly 24 hours a day in her lab drinking “Caff Pow,” a fictional takeoff on certain actual brands of soft drink). Those who are lazy and obese may drink sodas, but the calories and sugar in the sodas are a small part of the total diet. It’s a standing joke that someone would order three high calorie fast food meals combining burgers, cheese, fried chicken, bacon, etc. just for themselves — then “cut calories” by ordering a diet soda.

  • Daniel Jones

    Simply put, healthy food and healthy habits are more expensive, more troublesome, and more difficult than unhealthy chow an unhealthy pursuits.
    That’s why the obesity.
    Also; fixing the above on a social level is more expensive, more troublesome, and more difficult than just picking (on) a scapegoat.
    That’s why the war on Coke.

  • Robert Cruder

    Puritanical judgements are usually counterproductive and using the tax system to punish private behavior usually harms the wrong people.

    Humans survived until the development of agriculture by gaining fat during the summer from available fruits and starchy vegetables and burning that fat during winter. That involves major metabolic shifts. Attacking soda is like Nasrudin searching for his keys under the streetlight. Humans got fat from carbohydrate as do the bears this time of year and the pigs in feedlots. They did not get fat from just dietary fat. Try drinking olive oil (which cannot do any harm in the short term). It is difficult to stomach even 2000 calories per day which is insufficient for an active hunter/gatherer.

    Agriculture yielded starchy grain that could be stored, which displaced both fruit and starchy vegetables as the source for fattening carbohydrate and also eliminated the winter fast. The fatten-for-winter program now executes year-round but with no actual winter to compensate. That program is what we are and how we survived this long. It does not care whether it gets carbohydrate from soda, candy, cake or whole-wheat pasta.

    Religions might label good foods and bad ones, good behaviors and bad ones. Is it rational to select one food or one behavior and ask humans to stop being human in just that one detail?

    Forget the moralizing and especially the financial punishment but rather identify what factors execute the fatten-for-winter program and what factors execute the burn-it-off-until-spring program.